About Flaxseed or Alsi:
Flax or Alsi is a food and fiber crop cultivated in cooler regions of the world. Also known by the name of common flax or linseed, it is a member of the genus Linum in the family of Linaceae. Its scientific name is Linum usitatissimum. Flax is cultivated for its oil which is used as a nutritional supplement for human health. Flaxseed oil is also used as an ingredient in many wood finishing products (paints and varnishes). Flax fiber, which is taken from the stem of the plant, are used to make linen (cloth).
There are two basic varieties of flaxseed- brown and yellow or golden. Both have equal nutritional value except a type of yellow flax called ‘solin’ that has been developed by agricultural scientists to be processed and sold as a cooking oil. Flaxseed oil or linseed oil is an edible oil approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the trademark “Linola” (TM).
Properties of Flaxseed (Alsi):
Flax seeds are small seeds of brown color that offer many health benefits. It is one of the richest dietary sources of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. (1) ALA is an essential fatty acid, which means that the body cannot produce it. Therefore, we need to obtain it from the food we eat. Flaxseed or alsi is a very good source of protein (18%), dietary fibre, vitamin B1 and and copper. It is also a good source of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.
Flax contains ‘Omega-3’ essential fatty acids (ALA) which plays an important role in the anti-inflammatory system of our body. It is also good to keep our heart healthy. Flaxseed contains ‘arginine and glutamine’ which are important in preventing heart disease and supporting the immune system. Flax or Alsi contains hundred times of more ‘lignans’ than other plant foods which reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types of fibre which help to lower blood cholesterol and keep the bowel movement regular. (2)
How to Start:
Whenever you start to take flaxseed, start with a small quantity. Firstly, grind 50 gm flaxseed (don’t make fine powder) and keep into a airtight jar in refrigerator because ground flax spoils, or oxidises quickly. Add it (1 to 3 tbsp) to cooked food such as- oatmeal, yoghurt or cereal – and consume. You can sprinkle ground flaxseed onto your hot or cold cereal or breakfast shake or cooked vegetables too. You can also consume flaxseed oil also but seeds are better than oil as oil eliminates the fibre and most of the lignans. One tablespoon flaxseed powder twice a day is sufficient for a healthy person.
Health Benefits of Flaxseed or Alsi:
1. Reduces Body Weight:
Flax seed(alsi) is very helpful in reducing body weight because of its soluble fiber which suppress hunger and cravings for a longer period. By consuming more than 15 grams (20-30 gm) of flax seed daily for 3 to 4 months, you can reduce your body weight definitely.
Flax seed contains ‘lignans’ which is essential for speeding metabolism; it helps to reduce the amount of fat and glucose in the blood. Soak two spoons of flax seed (alsi) into a glass of water at evening; in the next day morning boil it thoroughly. Then sieve the boiled flax seed into a glass and drink like tea. Likewise, soak two spoons of flax seed into a glass of water at morning and drink at evening after boiling and sieving (follow the same procedure).
2. Alsi for Blood Pressure:
Flaxseed is very good to control diastolic and systolic blood pressure because it is the richest dietary source of ‘lignans’- the nutrients act as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens help to lower blood pressure and reduce stress and inflammation in the arteries. If you are having the tendency of high blood pressure, include flaxseed in your daily diet; 2- 3 tbsp flaxseed in powder form daily is sufficient to keep yourself healthy.
3. Good for Female:
Flaxseed or alsi is the richest known dietary source of ‘lignans’; lignans are the nutrients which act as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant based compounds that exerts an estrogen-like action on the body. Estrogen is an essential hormone for maintenance of feminine sex traits which also plays an important role in physiological functions such as: promoting sex drive (libido), vaginal health and skin health.
Flaxseed or alsi also help to relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in female; it can normalize the menstrual cycle by supporting the second phase. By consuming 2 tablespoons of flaxseed powder daily during the menopausal transition, you can get rid of problems related to menopause.
4. Alsi for Bowel Movement:
Flaxseed is the richest source of soluble fiber that helps in digestive process. There is about 27 grams of fiber in 100 gm of flaxseed; it helps to regularize the bowel movement. Therefore start to take flaxseed in a smaller amount for avoiding constipation but never forget to drink sufficient water, otherwise you may experience bloating because of rich fiber.
Flaxseed oil gives relief in piles and fisher; by taking 2-5 ml oil of flaxseed daily you can get relief in constipation which is the root cause of piles. It is better to take flaxseed oil mixing with carrot juice.
5. Good for Cough:
Alsi or flaxseed is very effective to cure cough and release mucus naturally. If you are getting tired with chronic cough, soak 15 gm flaxseed and 5 gm liquorice or mulethi in a glass of water for 3-4 hours. Add 15 gm of mishri in it and boil thoroughly on heat. Then mix half lemon juice in boiling water and leave it for 10 minutes by covering with a lid. After 10 minutes, filter it and drink like tea; it will clear any type of chest congestion and cures cough naturally.
Another way of using flaxseed for cough is to roast it slightly on a pan and grind. Mix some mishri (rock sugar or sugar candy) in it and keep the powder into a jar. Take 10-20 gm of this powder with warm water for few days; it removes mucus completely and you will get relief from cold and cough.
For curing cough, even you can take decoction of flax seed only. Boil 1 tbsp flax seed powder into water thoroughly and drink like tea; cough will be cured completely. You can apply this home remedy even on small kids for cold and cough in a small dose.
It is also very good for the patients of asthma. Firstly, roast and then grind the flax seed (alsi) to make powder; now add some honey into a tsp of flax seed powder and lick 2-3 times a day. Or you can mix mishri powder in roasted flax seed powder and ingest with warm water twice a day.
6. Flaxseed for Joint Pain:
Flax seed oil (alsi ka tel) has anti-inflammatory properties and very good for joint pain. It contains alpha-linolenic acids which controls swelling and very good to cure backache, nerve pain and knee pain. To control joint pain, apply flax seed oil on your joints daily and ingest 1 tbsp flax seed oil twice a day for 12 weeks.
Flax seed oil is considered as substitute of cod liver oil (fish oil) and is found to be very beneficial. To control joint pain, take 2 tbsp flax seed powder twice a day with milk (at morning and evening). In addition, grind some flax seed and apply on the affected joint as poultice to remove swelling of joints.
7. Good for Bone Health:
Flax seed (alsi) is good in phosphorus – a mineral that contributes to bone health and tissue maintenance. By including flax seed in your daily diet, you can maintain or improve your bone health. Its ALA also help to prevent the bones disease- osteoporosis.
8. Reduces Burning in Urine:
Flax seed oil gives relief in burning sensation with urination too. If you are experiencing burning when urinating, take 1 tbsp flax seed oil twice a day for 1-2 weeks regularly.
9. Controls Blood Sugar:
Flaxseed or alsi is good for diabetes too as it reduces glucose in the blood. (3) Diabetics should consume 20-25 gm of flaxseed powder daily; it will help to maintain their blood sugar level normal. They can take it with grains, cereals or curd; it is better to mix it with flour.
10. Prevents Cancer:
Flax seed (alsi) is considered as one of the best cancer fighting foods. As per findings of some researches, it is proved that by including flax seed in daily diet, breast, colon, and prostate cancers can be decreased by 60-70 percent. (3, 4) Consumption of flax seed oil (at least 3 tsp) daily showed good results in curing cancer. Its main component- ‘lignans’ may help to reduce the growth of several cancers (especially hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, uterus etc.).
11. Alsi for Burning Wounds:
Flax seed oil gives relief in burning wounds and helps in healing process; apply it locally on the burning wounds mixing with little lime water (chune ka pani) 3-4 times in a day. You can apply it immediately after burning, it prevents burn blisters (phafole).
At first, take an equal amount of flax seed oil and lime water in a bowl and glaze it thoroughly, till it turn into a paste (balm) form. Then apply this balm on the burning wounds.
12. Lowers Cholesterol Level:
Flax seed(alsi) also helps to lower cholesterol (Total and LDL Cholesterol) level in blood and by lowering cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease.
Flax seed oil contains the highest amount of ALA (content of omega-3 fatty acids) which promote a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 and may reduce the risk of various chronic disease.
13. Good for Skin and Hair:
Flax seed oil is good for skin glow and hair strength. Apply flax seed oil on your face and leave it on for 10 minutes; it works like a natural cleanser. Then wash it off with lukewarm water. After that, rub slices of cucumber on your face for moisturizing it. By giving massage with flax seed oil, you can keep the wrinkle away.
Likewise, alsi improves the luster and shine of hair because it is rich in minerals and vitamins especially, Vitamin E which is a super food for hair.
14. Cures Ear Pain:
Alsi is good for ear pain; heat some flax seed into onion juice and drop it into affected ear (2-3 drops) lukewarm.
Side Effects of Flaxseed:
Flax seed or alsi has been used since thousands of years back and is quite safe unless and until you are allergic to it. There is no known side effects of it other than the flatulence or bloating (due to its high fiber content) that may occur in starting. Flax seed is rich in fiber, therefore if you are consuming it daily, increase water intake.
If someone has gastrointestinal symptoms, such as- flatulence or bloating- he should start with a small amount (one teaspoon) and gradually increase the quantity up to two to three teaspoons. Don’t take more than 30 gm in a day in any case; it may cause chest burning and indigestion.
Women who are pregnant (or considering pregnancy) should avoid to use flax seed or consult with their doctor before taking it.
The person who has any chronic disease, should get clearance from his doctor.
Always remember to store flax seed in an airtight jar in a dark, dry and cool place or directly in refrigerator. It is better to grind alsi on your own at home in a small quantity and refrigerate it. Make sure before using it that there is no evidence of moisture because it is much more to oxidation. Similarly, store flax seed oil in airtight jar in small quantity. Though, flax seed contains Omega-3 called alpha linolenic acid (ALA) but it is not replacement of fish oil; fish oil contains Omega-3 called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid).
Though flax seed is quite popular and has been used since thousands of years back but there is no scientific proof of this. Therefore, consult your doctor before trying on a regular basis. Results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person.